tv Inside Story Al Jazeera September 6, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm EDT
>> this is al jazeera, i'm tony harris from new york. president obama has made one last push at the g20 summit for action in syria. obama said he's encouraged by his meetings with world leaders, but the pos host of this year's, russia, has stood firm regarding the attack. john mccain has been an ardent supporter of action on syria, but he made it clear a short time ago that there would be no u.s. troops on the ground in syria. >> i promise you that if we put an american boot on the ground, i will do whatever i can can to stop it, including lying down in
front of the pennsylvania avenue. i mean that. >> in lebanon the u.s. is ordering diplomats to believe the country as congress debates military strikes the state department is urging u.s. citizens to avoid travel to lebanon citing safety concerns. the august job report is out. 169,000 jobs in august and the unemployment rate has dropped partially because fewer people were looking for work. those are the headlines. the news continues after "inside story." >> the number of guantanamo detainees drops by two. we'll examine what life is like for those still behind bars, and what hopes they have for a just
resolution. and it's known as the other guantanamo. we'll look at th the detention facility in afghanistan where detainees remain. this is "inside storey." >> welcome, i'm libby casey. in february more than 100 prison in guantanamo went often a hunger strike to renew efforts to close the prison. the hunger strike continues. and 31 are being force fed in a procedure critics say amount to torture. we'll discuss the guantanamo dilemma, but first this ex-empty from al jazeera's fault line documentary series. rob kenu was recently in yemen.
and he spent time with a detainee. >> in yemen, the news of a moratorium lift lifted hopes high. he told his family when he returned from guantanamo after more than a decade he wanted to get married. >> his brothers went so far as to plan how it would take on the advertising shot that they run as a family business to help him reintegrate in society. then they learned that he was on the list of 46 i indefinite
>> here to talk about the status of indefinite detainees at guantanamo, professor of law at the university of new york who represents several guantanamo detainees. and here in the studio we're joined by max fisher, the foreign affairs blogger at the "washington post." let's start with you, randy kasim. how has the experience of the person we just met representative of those you represent. >> it doeall of their families n limbo. actually i should say hell. limo ilimbo is not a descriptio.
the single defining characteristic of guantanamo as an oppressive nature has remained unchanged since that prison was opened in 2002, and the fact of indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial so the families and prisoners have no idea if or when they will ever meet again. that alone constitutes a form of psychological torture based on the opinions of a number of organizations. >> what are the different categories of prisoners and talk about this word indefinite. >> they're all in the categories of detainees that the obama administration wants to get out of guantanamo. they want every single detainees out so they can close it down. how do they do that? there are four vague paths all
of which are proving problematic. first is trial. they can't do that's they won't give funding. the second is military tribunals. they've been hesitant to do this. there is a really high acquittal rate. and they're worried that people for who they want convictions will be acquitted. this is because this is not what military tribunals were designed to do and eviden evidentiary to. the other is having them moved to another treasure. they gave yemen a whole bunch of money to build a prison complex, but they've backed off because of prison breaks so there are security concerns. the fourth one is really
important. 84 out of 164 have been cleared for release. the u.s. thinks these are not people we should have locked up in any prison, and it sound like it should be easy and maybe in principle it should, but there is a little problem and big problem with that. the little problem is they have to release them into some place. they can't legally do it in the u.s. and in some cases they can't release them in their home countries a lot of places in egypt they fear where they may be tortured. but the really big reason is that congress passed this law that said, look, if you want to release the detainee, a senior official has to sign that they will not return to terrorism. >> we'll look at politics in a little bit, but randy kassem, way want to know what life is
like for you. you call it hell. tell us about the hunger strike and what that is like. >> for the prisoners you have to remember that the majority of the 164 prisoners who are in guantanamo have been there since 2002. that's an awful long time. that's over 11 years at this point. these are men who have been mistreated, abused, sometimes rising to the level of torture, and they're all men who are experiencing the psychological torture known as indefinite imprisonment. when you look at that all together it becomes quite office the men would have chosen to collectively stage a hunger strike. the hunger strike is not something that any prison would embark upon lightly. i respected many hunger strikers in guantanamo and elsewhere, and i can tell you without a single exception not one of those men has ever taken that decision slightly because it imposes a
great cost on their physical well-being, their psychological health, of course their families also worry about them a great deal even more than they normally would when they're on a hunger strike. so for any prisoner to take that step is really indicative of how extreme the circumstances are. >> there has been criticism the force feedings have been criticized, but what other options do the americans overseeing the prisons have? how should this be debt with? >> as a matter of international law, and as a matter of medical ethics it's clear force feeding a prisoner against his or her will is a violation of ethics and international law. there is no serious question about that. however, when you look at the prisoners of guantanamo in greater detail, what you'll find if you really pay attention to what they're saying is that for many of them, and perhaps for most of the men in guantanamo
who went on hunger strike they did not object to being tube fed. their form of protest was to refuse food from their can' cap, but they did not wish to die either. they're not suicidal. they wished to make a point about their imprisonment. they were fine being tube fed, but they were objecting to the unnecessary brutal fashion in which the u.s. chose to feed them. they wanted to make it painful and extremely uncomfortable for prisoners to be on hunger strike in order to break the hunger strike because it was drawing so much attention. >> what was the method of the force feeding? >> they have not explicitly defended it. they released photos saying it's not so bad. obama spoke about it personally. there is a part of me who wonders maybe he doesn't see this as an opportunity.
foreign affairs blogger at the "washington post." president obama came into office saying he wanted to close guantanamo. what has stopped him. >> it's really a fight between obama and congress. congress doesn't want to close it, and they've been really effective at stopping him at every turn. we talked about the 84 detainees who we all agree denver is their freedom. congress passed this law that said okay, if you want to get rid of them, if you want to free these people who we agree need to be freed then a senior official needs to sign an image publicly that this person will never be associated with terrorism. >> so they're on the line. >> that's the idea. to make the stakes so politically so high that they wouldn't want to do it. that's pretty cynical, but on the other hand, you know, you have to wonder okay, what is it like if you're john kerry and you say, well, if i sign this,
if they released all 84 tomorrow, probably at least one of them would at some point be accused of being involved with terrorism. there was an u.s. government study that found 16% to 27% became terrorist after being released. many would not expose themselves to that risk because of terrorism and american politics can be a little hysterical, and it's meant to told their feet to the fire. >> those numbers are significa significant. >> because how do you know. you have to put it on the american public a little bit because we so overreact to even this suspected possibility that somebody might meet a terrorist, somebody that we have to keep 84 people locked up forever.
>> what do your clients want? what is your solution? >> they want justice and they want freedom and they want their lives back. the idea that there is any legitimacy to what is happening between congress and the white house is frankly offensive at this point after 11 years. not just to them but to their families, and their governments, to their communities and to their societies. the reality is once again this is politics over policy. from the policy standpoint every single stakeholder agency in the u.s. government has acknowledged publicly in the u.s. national interest to close down that prison at guantanamo and to release the prisoners. the problem is that politics is getting in the way. it's not even as the white house used to claim they did not possess the authority. they've had that authority for quite some time. they have just chosen not to exercise it for political
reasons that have nothing to do with the sounder policy. >> what about civilian trials or having military tribunal which as max fisher mentioned earlier may benefit the detainees because of the abuses that happened that have been documented and hampered some of the prosecutions. what about those two options? >> well, i think the military conventions at guantanamo before which i have appeared on one of my clients at guantanamo are designed precisely to get around the issues that would arise in a normally constituted civilian or military court. that's because, you know, the elephant in the middle of the room in any guantanamo case is the question of torture, and where the government tries to use statements elicited from prisoners against them, and that would an legal issue. that's why they came up with the military commission.
the military commission enabled the prosecution to cut all types of corners, and it has proven to be a fiasco. there is no other word for it. it's not that they've had acquittals, but they've had problems moving forward. for my clients if there is any evidence, and there is a big emphasis on the if there, but if there is any evidence then that evidence should be presented in a federal court. the obama administration should abandon the military commission. no one bothers with the commissions any more not internationally or domestically. >> what about the responsibility of foreign countries. foreign governments as max fisher, could get retribution if you release prisoners in the custody of the governments they came from or into other countries, they might be in danger. >> i think that's recycling the dick cheney's 1% con tric doctrf
there is any least bit plus ability we would error on the side of detaining people indefinitely and shattering their lives. there are consequences and choices and we see that every day given the reputation on the united states internationally. >> we'll stay with ramsey kassem, and kell' talk about the other guantanamo bay, that's what some people call the prison in afghanistan. ç]
military handed over control of the facility to the afghan government. 60 afghan prisoners remain in prison there, most of them pakistani. with us ramsey kassem who represents detainees, and joining the discussion is a lawyer who respected many pakistani detainees. we her about guantanamo, but not bagram. >> we call them twins. the reason why you had guantanamo, fundamentally, change in terms of the rights that they're detainees, if it received all this attention in the world and the ma. bagram has been able to absolutely escape that.
that's why you look at bagram detainees not afforded the basic of rights such as access to attorneys, something that guantanamo detainees have. we want to draw attention to the fact that bagram is there, and it's going to be there unless something is done to shut it down. >> ramsey kassem, you have a client in bagram, what has his experience been like and what do you plan too requested. >> the prisoners of bagram do not have access to counsel. i was there last year demanding to see my client and my client was demanding to me, but they were saying that they have no righrightright to counsel. we were about to go back to the court of appeals to ask for a
simple thing, the right for a day in course. the obama administration is taking the same thought, courts have no jurisdiction over what goes on in bagram. you know, we've been trying to get that very basic right to get into the courthouse door, which guantanamo prisoners in theory have been able to do in the last seven years. >> we research out to isap. >> -- >> --i just want to mention that we reached out to isap and asked them to respond to the criticism that your group has brought up. here's what we heard in response. all of the men we hold in afghanistan were captured by coalition forces and were detained documented intelligence
reports and battlefield observation. the detainees are held under the law of war and are done so by us both humanely and lawfully. so sarah balal, what do you have to say to isap's position. >> i am a lawyer, but the fact of the matter is this call this a rabbit hole, and i would like to hear ramzi's position on this as well. there is no international law that vindicates holding people indefinitely without filing charges. in fact, this position that the spokesperson has said is very interesting. because we file litigation before the high court in pakistan to pressure the pakistani government to take a
step to negotiate with the americans precisely because we have to figure out ways around this issue to litigate this issue to accord the detainee's rights. in that litigation you know, through the pakistani ministry of foreign affairs the united states took the position that just one of our clients was captured, and we were able to disprove that by the u.s. government by producing letters that the detainee himself had written to his family members that pre-dated by two years the date of detention that the u.s. government said that they had captured him. you know, frankly, i don't buy that position at all. and also to detract from what is important, and what we need to do about bagram today. this discussion whether it's legal or not, under what law its justified, this debate has been going on since the beginning of
gitmo and bagram. the purpose of writing this report was not to feed into the debate that has been effective over the period of ten years by the u.s. government, but to draw and to place a human face on what these people are facing, and the way we did that is not by getting direct testimonies from the detainees because we have no access to them, but reaching out to their family members, and tracking what has happened to them over the past ten years. when you put people in indefinite detention, you're not just disrupting their lives and dreams, but you're destroying the lives and the fabric of their communities and their families and their children. you know, who are left in limbo. >> we're hearing from sara the picture of what happens to the families. ramzi kassem said thee prisoners were o on the battlefield of wa.
they may have been planning 9/11, how do you push back against that? >> i shy sara is right from a legal standpoint. anything that you receive from isap is questionable, but it is factually inaccurate as well. i can't stress that enough. the fact that they're telling you and telling the world that these were people who were on battlefield. there is no prove of that. my client was taken off the streets of bangkok. he was not captured anywhere near a hot battlefield of afghanistan. >> we'll have to leave it there. thank you so much to both of you. well, that's all from the team in washington d.c. and from me, libby casey. you can keep this conversation going by logging on to our facebook page or send us your thoughts on twitter.